The Atlanta Hawks entered Saturday’s Game 3 with their backs against the wall and they responded jumping out to a 26-8 lead and cruising to a 116-98 win. Given the results of the first two games, this was a game that Atlanta needed in more ways than one and that wasn’t lost on the players or the coaching staff following the game.
“The aggressiveness from our group coming out of the gate, in the first quarter, set a good tone for us,” Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the game. Defensively we were in a good place. Just the activity and the pace that we played with offinsively created a lot of good opportunities for a lot of different people. From there, I thought we still had a lot of good stuff. They closed it a little bit a couple of times and they responded a couple of times. We just have to continue to go back to work, look at the film and figure out how we can get better from Game 3 to Game 4, come out with the same edge, the same aggressiveness.”
Everything clicked for the Hawks in that first quarter as Dennis Schröder scored 15 of his 27 points in the opening period. Atlanta knocked down 15 of 23 attempts and were 5 of 9 from three-point range while piling up 38 first quarter points. They held the Wizards to just 30 percent shooting in the period and 1 of 6 shooting from deep.
“He certainly was active and very good early, but he’s played well,” Budenholzer said of Schröder. “When he’s mixing up, when he’s getting to the basket, getting to the paint and finishing and making shots. Then he was involving teammates. Defensively, he had a great mindset. He’s really competed at a high level all three games.”
While Schröder did the heavy lifting early, Paul Millsap made sure there wasn’t going to be any comeback. Millsap finished with a team-best 29 points and 14 rebounds. He also had five assists, a steal and couple of blocks for good measure.
“Paul was great. The great thing is he got a lot of it out of some random stuff,” Budenholzer responded when asked about Millsap’s performance. “I thought his activity in getting into pick-and-rolls, and getting out of pick-and-rolls, rolling and mixing up what he does in our offense when we’re playing out of motion was very good for us. When we went to him and relied on him, I thought he delivered both for himself and he made some good passes and did some good things for his teammates.”
Hawks rookie Taurean Prince also had a nice game finishing with 16 points while going 7 of 10 from the floor. He drew the praise of several of his teammates for his performance following the game.
“With any rookie, you just want him to get out there and play hard, Every time Taurean touches the floor, he’s out there hustling,” Millsap said when asked about Prince’s performance. “He’s on the ground. He’s a scrappy player. He earned himself some minutes. He’s starting in the playoffs because of that. That my hat off to him. That’s the approach you have to have as a rookie.”
Prince entered Atlanta’s starting lineup late in the season and has remained there through the first three games of the postseason. It doesn’t look like he will be relinquishing that role anytime soon.
“He’s a great competitor,” Schröder added on Prince. “When I first got into the league, I was the same way. Hard-headed a little bit, but trying to get better every day. What he’s doing in the playoffs is just great. He has to keep going for us to win games, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to keep doing it.
The Hawks appeared to be dead in the water after falling behind 0-2 in Washington but thanks to a rousing performance in Game 3 in front of an exceptionally good crowd at Philips Arena, they have positioned themselves to even the series in Game 4 on Monday.
One of the biggest differences in Game 3 and the first two games was how they came out quickly and set the tone. Atlanta’s starting unit had been one of their worst performing lineups over the first two games but that wasn’t the case on Saturday. They set the tone at both ends of the floor early and forced and had the Wizards on their heels before they ever knew what happened.
“Just the effort and intensity. We haven’t come out with that type of intensity and effort in a long time,” Millsap said of the quick start. “To do that in this game was big-time for us.”
“It’s great for the team,” Schröder added. “Everybody came out and protected home court. We have to do the same thing on Monday — come out with an intensity, play together and share the ball. When we do that, we’re hard to beat.”
Game 4 at Philips Arena is set for Monday at 8 p.m.